Sunday, May 14, 2017

Industrial Strength Singers

Ever since I saw a Singer 31-15 as I wrote about in Oh, Brother! last winter, I've been looking for one. I got close a couple times but I don't want to mess around with a heavy duty motor, just a treadle like Henry's would be nice. Imagine my surprise when I get a text from Ellie asking if she should keep a Singer treadle that was dropped off at her house. It looked pretty rough but then I took a look at the treadle irons and noticed the bottom pedal was off to the left. I looked again and could see a rod hanging down just off center. Now it started to fit together so I text back asking Ellie to humor me and check the model number that was on the front. You got it: it was a Singer 31-15. I won't say my heart stood still but I quickly text back that this was one to keep and could I pretty please be the one to work on it, for free? How could she say no? It arrived within a couple hours and was set up in my garage. Over the next few days I cleaned this dirty baby and got it reunited with the irons in the garage:
Singer 31-15 all cleaned up
It was a joy to figure out what was different to make this an industrial sewing machine and it's mainly just bigger. It does take special needles that are the same as one of the sergers I have, DBx1, so I was glad I didn't have to wait for an order to arrive. Bobbin case and bobbins are typical class 15's and I started out using regular polyester thread. It dawned on me that with the size 18 needle maybe I should be using heavier thread so I got out some heavy thread from my stash of serger cones. Winding the bobbin was not too successful but it was purely user error and will take more practice. The leather belt was broken so I used my trusty plastic tubing:
Bobbin winder in front and thread stand at the back with clear tubing in place of a leather belt
I did have to shorten it once but think it will do better with leather and I'll have to send for one since it's about six inches longer than the used ones I had accumulated. Just for practice and testing it was a fine start. Now for the pressure foot lift with the knee lever:
Knee lever right of center
The Bernina's 830's are about the first of the models that seem to have that feature but that was long after little beauty was made. It's fun to give that lever a little push and up goes the foot, keeping your hand free. At first the lever didn't engage so I tipped her back to see what was up with the positioning of the lever. I tried it several ways and then just gave up on it. While sewing this afternoon I gave the lever a nudge and, wow, the presser foot lifted! It worked! I don't know what I did but at least I got it positioned right somewhere in all of that finagling. Prepared with the size 18 needle and heavy thread, I tested her out on six layers of denim with no hesitation:
That's six layer of denim under that needle
I did struggle with the feed dogs moving the fabric along but think there was too much pressure on the presser foot as well as it is not an industrial presser foot. In the meantime I have a zigzag foot on it and it's doing much better. I even made a little video for you:

It's been fun to work on this sewing machine but I know I do not have the room nor a good use for it so it was nice while it lasted. It's absolutely perfect for Ellie to take to Haiti where electricity is not a mainstay of their lives but gainful employment is. Thanks, Ellie, for letting me practice on this one.

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